Boeing Projects Strong 20-Year Market for New Commercial Jets

Boeing Co. is projecting airlines will need $2.6 trillion worth of new commercial jets over the next 20 years, enough to double the worldwide fleet of passenger and cargo planes to nearly 36,000 by 2025.

In its latest market forecast, the Chicago-based jet maker said Wednesday that most new planes will be single-aisle and twin-aisle models seating 100 to 400 passengers.

While the Asia-Pacific region will drive much of that demand, North America will remain the world's largest market for new planes as airlines update their aging fleets.

Because fuel costs have risen sharply, Boeing now predicts airlines will retire and replace about 1,400 more planes with more fuel-efficient models than it had previously predicted, Randy Baseler, vice president of marketing for Boeing's commercial airplanes division, said in a conference call with reporters.

Boeing expects airlines to take delivery of more than 27,000 new passenger and cargo jets over the next 20 years, including:

_16,540 single-aisle planes of 100 to 240 seats in passenger configurations.

_6,230 twin-aisle planes of 200 to 400 seats.

_3,450 regional jets of 90 seats or fewer.

_990 jumbo jets of more than 400 seats.

About 65 percent of new planes will go to airlines expanding their fleets, with the remainder replacing planes that are being retired, Boeing said. The vast majority will be passenger planes.

Boeing forecast a weaker market for jumbo jets than its chief rival, Airbus SAS, which has invested heavily in developing its massive A380 - a 555-seat plane that has been plagued by recent production delays.

In its latest 20-year market forecast, released two years ago, Airbus projected airlines will demand roughly 1,600 jumbos.

Boeing predicts most of the growth in air travel will come from more frequent flights and nonstop trips, not larger airplanes - a trend it says has played out since the early 1990s. Airbus, on the other hand, has also bet that airlines will want larger planes, like its A380, for more traditional hub-and-spoke trips.

Boeing expects North America will take delivery of roughly 35 percent of new planes made in the next two decades, with the Asia-Pacific region taking about 29 percent and Europe 24 percent.

Boeing also sees strong demand coming from growing airlines in Latin America, the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Especially robust growth is expected in China, where the air travel market is about one-sixth the size of North America's today. In two decades, Boeing expects air travel in China to be three-quarters the size of the market in North America.

Boeing, which assembles most of its commercial planes in the Seattle area, based its projections on its assumption that passenger travel will grow about 4.9 percent a year, air freight will grow at roughly 6.1 percent a year, and worldwide economic growth will average 3.1 percent a year.

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